Nuts are a wonderful and natural source of vitamins, minerals, fibers, proteins, and healthy fats.
“Nuts contain numerous types of antioxidants. In almonds, for example, there is a range of flavonoids, including catechins, flavonols and flavonones in their aglycone and glycoside forms. Peanuts and pistachios contain several flavonoids and are rich in resveratrol, while walnuts contain a variety of polyphenols and tocopherols. Polyphenols in walnuts are typically non-flavonoid ellagitannins. Alkyl phenols are found in abundance in cashews.”1
Let’s find out more about their benefits, shall we?
They are rich in calcium and a good substitute for dairy products in case of allergies or intolerance. They also have vitamin E, which helps the skin to look healthier and radiant. Their shells contain flavonoids, which are known to protect the heart by reducing the amount of ‘bad cholesterol’.
“Whole almonds have a nutritional profile consistent with satiety, being the tree nut highest in protein and fiber. Additionally, they have other health benefits because they are a good source of vitamin E, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, magnesium and potassium. However, almonds are also a high-fat energy-dense food; these types of foods might be an inappropriate snack choice since when eaten in the same volume as low-energy-dense foods they are equally as satiating but higher in energy.”2
“The prevalence of type 2 diabetes is rapidly increasing. In fact, during the past three and a half decades, the number of Americans with diagnosed diabetes has more than tripled from 5.6 million to 25.8 million, with many more people thought to be at risk. Diabetes is also a contributing risk factor for other chronic diseases, such as heart disease and stroke. Dietary and lifestyle interventions are a critical component of diabetes management, and evidence continues to mount supporting the role of almonds and other tree nuts as part of an overall dietary pattern that is beneficial for those with type 2 diabetes. The nutrient profile of almonds—low-glycemic index and providing a satisfying combination of protein (6 grams per ounce), fiber (4 grams per ounce), and monounsaturated fats— makes them an ideal snack and addition to meals for individuals with impaired glucose tolerance or type 2 diabetes.”3
“Owing to the nutritional value and health benefits of almonds, they are now used in the production of many nutritious products such as beverages, pasta, cream, snacks and bakery products. The demand for plantbased drinks has increased because of the prevalence of allergies to animal milk protein and there is much interest in soybean and almond milk because of their nutritional value. Almond milk is one of the most commonly sold plant-based milk products and its popularity has been attributed to various reasons, most important being the consumers’ perceptions about it, its health benefits, and the many brands and flavors available in the market.”4
Chestnuts are low in calories and fatty compounds. Instead, they’re high in fiber, Vitamin C, B6, and carbohydrates, which boost the immune system and help us fight off anemia. However, they are low in protein content.
“Chestnuts can be grown organically, have many nutritional benefits (e.g., gluten-free flour), and are associated with positive feelings, such as tradition, holiday, and family, that can help advertise the product”.5
They contain very high levels of magnesium, calcium, and folate, which are known to control and reduce certain amino acids that are linked to health issues, such as Parkinson’s disease and other cardiac ailments. They are also beneficial for your heart, muscles, skin, bones, joints, and digestive health.
Peanuts contain a mix of vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. They’re also loaded with proteins, fats, and fibers. Research has shown that eating peanuts regularly reduces cardiovascular health issues.
“Peanuts are actually a legume and have more protein than any other nut with levels comparable to or better than serving of beans. After the peanut oil is extracted, the protein content in the cake can reach 50 %. Peanuts contain all the 20 amino acids in variable proportions and is the biggest source of the protein called ‘arginine’”.6
“Peanuts are a vital source for introducing most of the water soluble vitamins into the human body along with vitamin E which is fat soluble (Table 1). An important fat soluble vitamin in peanuts is vitamin E amounting to about 6.93 mg. Vitamin E is known as alpha-tocopherol, and is an anti-oxidative vitamin. It is associated with obstructing the formation of free radicals by preventing the oxidation of unsaturated fatty acids present in consumed foods, respiratory membranes, and mitochondrial matrix in the human body.”7
“Peanuts, on the other hand, have a higher content of protein and fiber when compared to tree nuts. In addition to the different concentrations and combinations of fatty acids, it is important to emphasize that these foods also differ in micronutrients and bioactive substances, especially α-tocopherol in almonds and hazelnuts, selenium in Brazil nuts, phenolic compounds in walnuts, carotenoids in pistachios, and phytosterols in peanuts. Thus, it is believed that nutritional characteristics can influence health effects as well as the choice of different portion sizes for prevention or coadjuvant treatments.”8
They are good for the heart because they contain antioxidants and sterols, which tend to decrease cholesterol levels, avoiding plaque formation in the arterial walls. They also contain oleic acid and Vitamin B3, which reduce tiredness.
“Tree nuts are a popular food in the United States, used as both a stand-alone snack and as ingredients in other food dishes. Common tree nuts, such as almonds (Prunus dulcis), pecans, and walnuts (Juglans regia), have a number of nutritional benefits that may be attractive to food consumers. For example, consumption of tree nuts may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and cardiovascular heart disease. These nutritional benefits may vary depending on the nut type because the underlying nutritional components, such as lipid and antioxidant content, also vary.”9
They contain lots of fiber, potassium, Vitamin B6, and antioxidants that are known to prevent vision issues.
They have large amounts of antioxidants that have been used in cancer treatments. Their omega-3 fatty acid content has been proven to lower LDL, which is the harmful type of cholesterol.
“Walnuts (Juglans regia) are a tree nut belonging to the walnut family. They originated in the Mediterranean region and Central Asia, and have been part of the human diet for thousands of years. Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fats and contain higher amounts of antioxidants than most other foods. Eating walnuts may improve brain health while also helping to prevent heart disease and cancer Besides being a source of high monounsaturated fat, walnuts are a rich source of antioxidants and omega3 fatty acids. Walnuts contain l-arginine, an amino acid that is linked to reduced hypertension, because it causes blood cells to relax and stay smooth. Since all nuts are high in fat, eating too much can cause to gain weight. The fat found in walnuts is mainly omega-3 fats, a type of monounsaturated fatty acid that has heart-protective qualities. Thus walnuts, Lower total blood cholesterol, Increase HDL [good cholesterol], Decrease LDL [bad cholesterol], Reduce chances of blood clot formation, Reduce inflammation of blood vessels, Relax blood vessels that help to control high blood pressure.”10
“Nonsodium minerals such as potassium and magnesium, shared by all nuts, have beneficial effects on cardiometabolic risk, as confirmed by recent reviews. Walnuts are rich in γ-tocopherol, a form of vitamin E that has anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties in addition to being a potent antioxidant. Evidence is emerging on antitumorigenic actions of walnut phytomelatonin, but its sleep-promoting effects have not been tested in humans. Finally, recent experimental evidence suggests that the main polyphenols in walnuts, ellagitannins and their metabolites (urolithins), have beneficial effects against oxidation, inflammation, and tumor growth and also positively influence the intestinal microbiota.”11
They improve thyroid functioning and contain selenium, which has a role in wound healing. With only 5 Brazil nuts a day, you will get the daily recommended selenium amounts.
“Nutritionally, Brazil nuts are a good source of nutrients, including protein, fiber, selenium (Se), magnesium, phosphorus and thiamin. They also contain niacin, vitamin E, vitamin B6, calcium, iron, potassium, zinc and copper. The nuts have high nutritive food value containing 60–70% oil and 17% protein. Moreover, the oily endosperm contains about 70% unsaturated fats but can also lead to rancidity issues. Brazil nuts are unique in that they are the highest known food source of selenium (Se). They are perhaps the best source of Se from plant-based foods and are a mineral needed for proper thyroid and immune function. Se may also protect against cancers of the prostate, liver and lungs. Due to high levels of phytonutrients, Brazil nuts have been associated with many health benefits, mainly including cholesterol-lowering effects, antioxidant activity, and antiproliferative effects.”12
Cashews are providers of proteins, antioxidants, and minerals like iron, zinc, and magnesium.
Are There Risks Involved in Eating Nuts?
A serving of about 30-50 grams of unsalted nuts should be enough to provide many dietary benefits. However, they should be consumed in moderation just like everything else as they also have a high caloric count that should not be overlooked.
Nuts tend to be high in fats. However, they are the heart-friendly, unsaturated type of fats. Most of these are found in almonds, chestnuts, hazelnuts, and peanuts. Brazil nuts and cashews are not so good in terms of fat, since they have high levels of the saturated types known as LDL (low density lipoprotein), so it is advisable to eat them in fewer quantities or less frequently.
As always, consult your doctor or specialist before including them in your diet.
(1) Blomhoff, R., Carlsen, M. H., Andersen, L. F., & Jacobs, D. R. (2006). Health benefits of nuts: potential role of antioxidants. British Journal of Nutrition, 96(S2), S52-S60. Available online at https://www.cambridge.org/core/services/aop-cambridge-core/content/view/73C2B58F9AE6CC08786078548018E30D/S000711450600359Xa.pdf/health-benefits-of-nuts-potential-role-of-antioxidants.pdf
(2) Hull, S., Re, R., Chambers, L., Echaniz, A., & Wickham, M. S. (2015). A mid-morning snack of almonds generates satiety and appropriate adjustment of subsequent food intake in healthy women. Available online at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4500840/
(3) Almond Board of California (2015). Almonds: Nutrition and Scientific Research. Document #2015HP0007. Available online at http://www.almonds.com/sites/default/files/misc/HP/Documents/almonds_nutrition_and_scientific_research_updated_august_2015.pdf
(4) Al Tamimi, J. Z. (2016). Effects of Almond Milk on Body Measurements and Blood Pressure. Food and Nutrition Sciences, 7(06), 466. Available online at https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/34f9/7eabcc9334becdc57b5f80fa4de043f5615b.pdf
(5) Gold, M. A., Cernusca, M. M., & Godsey, L. D. (2006). Competitive market analysis: chestnut producers. HortTechnology, 16(2), 360-369. Available online at https://journals.ashs.org/horttech/view/journals/horttech/16/2/article-p360.pdf
(6) Arya, S. S., Salve, A. R., & Chauhan, S. (2016). Peanuts as functional food: a review. Journal of food science and technology, 53(1), 31-41. Available online at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4711439/
(7) Settaluri, V. S., Kandala, C. V. K., Puppala, N., & Sundaram, J. (2012). Peanuts and their nutritional aspects—a review. Food and nutrition Sciences, 3(12), 1644. Available online at https://file.scirp.org/pdf/FNS20121200005_45452645.pdf
(8) De Souza, R., Schincaglia, R., Pimentel, G., & Mota, J. (2017). Nuts and human health outcomes: A systematic review. Nutrients, 9(12), 1311. Available online at https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/889d/146bb6e8234d65052193166225a6b2b0c562.pdf
(9) Lillywhite, J. M., Simonsen, J. E., & Heerema, R. J. (2014). US consumer purchases and nutritional knowledge of pecans. HortTechnology, 24(2), 222-230. Available online at https://journals.ashs.org/horttech/view/journals/horttech/24/2/article-p222.xml
(10) Tufail, S., Fatima, A., Niaz, K., Qusoos, A., & Murad, S. (2015). Walnuts Increase Good Cholesterol (HDL-Cholesterol) and Prevent Coronary Artery Disease. Available online at https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/6eec/229ced6a7e380949644fedd2e5f22c3f217d.pdf
(11) Ros, E., Izquierdo-Pulido, M., & Sala-Vila, A. (2018). Beneficial effects of walnut consumption on human health: Role of micronutrients. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, 21(6), 498-504. Available online at https://journals.lww.com/co-clinicalnutrition/Fulltext/2018/11000/Beneficial_effects_of_walnut_consumption_on_human.15.aspx
(12) Yang, J. (2009). Brazil nuts and associated health benefits: A review. LWT-Food science and technology, 42(10), 1573-1580. Available online at https://www.essentialnutrition.com.br/media/artigos/chocolift/34.pdf